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softcell41O2 Academy, Leeds, UK
13th November 2021
Soft Cell - Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret 40th Anniversary Tour

OK, let’s start with the elephant in the room - didn’t SOFT CELL retire? Yes they did! But hey, with a new album on the way, ‘*Happiness Not Included’, I’m so pleased they changed their mind! With over forty years of electronic soulful, seedy, tortured ditties behind them they remain a strong favourite and still as current and influential as ever. www.softcell.co.uk

Music & Performance
Tonight consists of a two sets from SOFT CELL, with an interval between and no support band. It was very early doors gig at 6pm, band on stage at 7pm - I believe there was a club night after the gig. I’ve got to start by thanking the bands management - a great experience working with them. Next, the crowd - a wonderful mix of older and younger people all looking for a party - a great sign of the bands general appeal. The venue was surely at full capacity, it made me wonder if perhaps they could have filled the Arena in Leeds instead. The atmosphere was truly something very special, I spent a little time around the queue before the doors opened - there was a party, with SOFT CELL music playing and laughter and dancing. Once inside people danced, hugged, waved pink flamingos… I’m sure this not only reflects on the joy of the band not retiring, but also the release of Covid lockdowns. A night to remember, Leeds is the hometown for SOFT CELL - they love the city and Leeds loves SOFT CELL!

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The lights dim, Gary Barnacle, saxophone in hand arrives first, then the backing singers followed by Dave Ball. The wait for Marc Almond seems an age, but he confidently strides on stage and we are ready for him! The first set is a mix of showcasing the forthcoming new album and tracks such as ‘Torch’, ‘Where the Heart Is’, ‘Martin’ and ‘The Art of Falling Apart’. A total stroke of genius to mix the unfamiliar new album tracks with classics, but keeping ‘Not Stop Erotic Dancing’ tracks reserved for set two. I know already I will love the new tracks when the album is released just from hearing them showcased this evening - the singles ‘Bruises On All My Illusions’ and ‘Heart Like Chernobyl’ already firmly stuck in my head as ear worms. As they leave the stage for the end of set one after playing a blistering ‘Martin’ - my anticipation stepped up for act two; one of my all-time favourite albums!

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The wait seemed an age, but the guys return and I’m happy; very happy. The album has a special place in my heart, and they play it pretty much as it was recorded. Well part from Marc making a couple of absent-minded errors! Well, it has been a long time, and it’s easy to forget most things when you get to our time of lives! It all added to the family party atmosphere, the crowd and the band joining in with some light-hearted banter and Marc taking it firmly on the chin with good humour. Special moments that make a live performance. I watched Dave playing the keys throughout the gig, he is a complete genius and a legend in the electronic music scene - a genuinely talented guy. Marc hasn’t lost any of his vocal talents, his voice is strong and capable - amply proven with some exceptional long note holding on the likes of ‘Youth’.

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Gary Barnacle has also shined this evening - an exceptionally gifted musician and composer that I have loved since I was a kid. He played in bands such as VISAGE, SIMPLE MINDS and for the great DAVID BOWIE. A nice touch having three backing singers, of course a girl was needed for the Cindy Ecstasy parts. The visuals were perfect, the screens showing a great mix of graphics including (obviously) some seedy, sleazy elements such as working girl calling cards so often seen in telephone boxes of the era. Oh, and pink flamingos! A fantastic touch. The crowd were spectacular, the sound was absolutely spot-on - seriously gigs do not get much better than this - a fantastic evening! Leeds was hungry for the band, the band delivered - long live SOFT CELL!

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Setlist
Set 1
01. Torch
02. Bruises on All My Illusions
03. Happy Happy Happy
04. Monoculture
05. Heart Like Chernobyl
06. Nostalgia Machine
07. Kitchen Sink Drama
08. Where the Heart Is
09. Divided Soul
10. L’esqualita
11. Heat
12. The Art of Falling Apart
13. Martin
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Set 2
14. Frustration
15. Tainted Love
16. Seedy Films
17. Youth
18. Sex Dwarf
19. Entertain Me
20. Chips on My Shoulder
21. Bedsitter (12" Version)
22. Secret Life
23. Say Hello, Wave Goodbye
---
24. Purple Zone
25. Memorabilia

Rating
Music: 9.5
Performance: 9.5
Light: 9.5
Sound: 9.5
Total: 9.5 / 10

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All Pictures by Kevin Stevens
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